Fetzer’s 2007 Pays d’Oc French Pinot Noir with comfort food — roast beef hash, spinach and egg

Fetzer’s pinot noir you’ll find in stores now is a 2007 from France. As a “real” Burgundy it’s understated according to American tastes, but fruity and nicely balanced and inexpensive. I’ve forgotten what I paid, but it was not a lot.

After a long Sunday of teaching a passage in the Gospel of John which tells us ordinary people are the right ones to lead ordinary people (John 1:35-51), where I memorialized a friend, wife of one of my students, as an example of an angel who without words lived out a lifelong message from God . . . and after her full-scale memorial service later, I brought out the French red Burgundy to accompany our evening supper.

The wine is too subtle for Judy, who likes big kicks from big reds; but it is a warm accompaniment to certain soul foods.

It has unmistakable red raspberry with citric elements and it lingers comfortably as an aftertaste when drunk as an aperitif. To be truthful, we haven’t had supper yet, so I can only tell you that I expect it to taste refreshing with a special hash.

Each serving will feature half a package of frozen chopped spinach, squeezed totally dry and then sauteed in just a teaspoon of bacon fat. Atop the spinach will be a generous layer of crumbled blue cheese. Atop that will be found my hash made from leftover roast chuck beef; pan-friend small cubes of rye bread several days old, with bacon bits, lots of Mediterranean spices and olive oil; and, atop all that, a jumbo over-lightly egg (the eggs are huge, $1.99 a dozen from Trader Joe’s).

Ooh. I can hardly wait. “The Mentalist” will be coming on TV, following the two conference championship NFL football games. Friends die, and are grieved, and life goes on with comfort food and comfort wine. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

Best pinot grigio comes from 1800 feet above Clear Lake in California

Cool nights and well-drained volcanic soils give rise to rich, elegant wines. That’s the opinion of Brassfield Estate Vineyards. After tasting their 2004 Clear Lake pinot grigio, I’m strongly inclined to rhapsodize even more hyperbolically.

I haven’t tasted the ’05 through ’08 vintages of this wine. The 2004 is being cleared out of inventory at California’s Grocery Outlet stores, where we just bought three cases of it at $3 a bottle! But I think conditiions up on those Mendocino County hills are perfect for the variety, so buy whatever vintage you find, at least a bottle or two, for sampling.

American pinot grigio too often is produced in a style recalling jug wines made of chenin blanc and thompson seedless grapes. They grow tons of grapes per acre with little character but they are widely used in inexpensive white wines.

I have to pause to say that chenin blanc from David Stare’s Dry Creek Vineyard is a wonderful wine, made like the best in the Loire Valley, only just a tad more assertive.

That’s acually how the Brassfield Family treats its estate-grown pinot grigio. Its tropical flavors are an American-style assertive upgrading of the French-Italian gray Burgundies, and its assertive acids melting into a smooth mandarin-orange finish might annoy the sublety-loving French originators of the variety. But the Italians know what will go with the fresh ocean-seasoned tastes of seafood and this wine takes France’s Loire Valley straight to the Mediterranean by way of talented American hands.

The www.brassfieldestate.com website isn’t anywhere near as vibrant as this wine, but it’s worth a visit because they produce a whole lot of wine in a region of which the world is largely unaware. If the pinot grigios cost as much as $12 to $15 they’re worth it. You can probably find it for less.

Find it. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.

Seghesio 2006 Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel … and Truffles

I wonder if anything  says “Sonoma County” like the procession of old vine zinfandels from Healdsburg’s Seghesio Family Winery.

I wonder if anything says “World Class” like Seghesio’s 2006 old vine zin ($30) with “chestnut pudding with golden chanterelles and white truffle fonduta,” which is how Michele Anna Jordan describes one of the courses in a many-course meal to be served tomorrow night at the winery. Every course features truffles! (More about the menu in a moment.)

I haven’t tasted this zin. It’s very highly rated. KL wine merchants describe it this way: “Very ripe, very extracted; broad sweep of blackberry fruit; suggestions of chocolate, sweet oak and jam; slight trim of heat at the finish.” The oak somes from both French and American barrels which also help provide dark spice. This will age.

Back to the meal ($150 for club members, $180 for the public).

Seafood and black truffle zabaglione starter; 2007 Fiano wine. Stuffed breast of quail with local wild greens and white truffle risotto; 2007 Costiera pinot noir. Winter sweet potato salad with ham hock, dandelion greens and black chanterelles; 2005 Venom sangiovese. Tuscan-style braised venison with celery root, truffles, matsutake mushrooms, onions and walnuts; 2004 San Lorenzo petite sirah. Baked pears with amaretti cookies, Poire William sauce and 2004 Dionigia Port.

This is all way beyond my means and is much more food than I could handle; but wow! I remember when I was writing commercially and used to get invited to feasts. I don’t remember anything, ever, as true to (high end) Sonoma County as this.